Ask a Nerd!

Question: I am starting my last year of college. What should I consider if I want to go to graduate school in the near future?

Brief: If you have taken on the arduous but rewarding task of applying to graduate school there are a few things that can help you along the way (like one of our Orange County grad school consultants) and, as an experienced student, there are more options afforded to you.



There are several options for potential grad students but the first thing you should think about is when you want to go to grad school. Many students are in fields that require them to have a MA/MS or even a PhD prior to entering their professional field; however most professions offer some sort of paid work prior to earning a graduate degree. If you are choosing to work for two years or so in order to gain professional working experience in your field then your application timeline is more relaxed. Alternately, if you want to go to graduate school straight away after you receive your undergraduate degree then there are a few things that you should start right now.

Step 1

Take the GRE (or LSAT or MCAT)

It is better to get this test out of the way before you get too far into the application process – our Irvine GRE tutors are here to help. If you are also in your senior year of undergrad, this means that you will be spending a lot of time studying. Most likely, you won’t have taken a standardized test since the good old SAT or ACT, so I recommend getting a tutor to help you get started and buying a test prep book to help you get back in the mental grove of standardized exams.

Step 2

Make a list of at least 5 schools that you wish to apply to

Now that you are in your 20’s, moving across the country may not be ideal. If you already have a good job, you may want to look at local schools as well as schools that offer blended learning (both online and on campus options). Many highly reputable universities also offer 100% online programs for working adults, so that is another good option to look into. Look for programs that will get you closer to your professional goal. You will want to start working as soon as you can after grad school so it’s extremely important to pick your program and your school wisely (Ask a Nerd! “How Many Colleges Should I Apply to?“).

Irvine-grad-school-consultantImage via:

You will also want to have a fabulous entrance essay. If you were an English composition or a creative writing major, then it’s no sweat. If not, look into an essay tutor for some guidance.

Step 3

Consider your current lifestyle

After the end of your senior year, you will no longer be a full time student in the traditional sense. Although anyone can go back to school at any point in their life or career, the 20’s bring on a new set of responsibilities. There are more bills to pay and more responsibilities, along with new privileges and freedoms. Think about what your lifestyle will be like for the next 5 years or so.

  1. Are you planning to work full time from 8-5 in a traditional office environment?
  2. Are you planning to take out a loan and pay it back later?
  3. Will you be living in your current city or are you willing to move to another state?
  4. Will you be working part time or from a home office, where your schedule is relatively flexible?
  5. Are you planning to start a family or add other social responsibilities into your life in the next few years?

Additional “ifs” to consider

If you are working a traditional office environment, a blended or online program might be the right option for you.

If you are planning to take out a loan, you may want to be a full time student once again and get through your program in the minimum amount of time so that you can start working full time in your field right after graduation.

If you want to stay in your current city, you should look at local universities or online programs from out of state schools. If you are working part time or from a home office, you may have the flexibility to choose any of the options that suit your needs.

If you have a family or other social responsibilities, you may want to look into blended learning where you can completely focus in an on campus environment part of the time while still enjoying the convenience of a part time online educational program (READ: “Best Libraries in South Orange County for Studying“).


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